Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Plotting By The Seat Of Your Pants

What’s Jack up to? He’s mad because the DH put a new lock on the laundry room door so he can’t get in there and rifle though the clean towels. Sorry Dude. You must find some new trouble to get into today.

This weekend I’m excited to be attending the New England Chapter of Romance Writer’s of America’s Annual Conference. On top of getting to sit down for first time face to face with my fab agent I’ll get to attend workshops with some great authors which is always pretty inspiring.

One of the inspiring authors giving a workshop this year is my own PIC (partner in crime) and author of the regency historical, A Singular Lady, Megan Frampton. Megan will be doing a workshop called Plotting by the Seat of Your Pants which I got to hear her do recently for our local New York Chapter. Listening to this workshop caused me to bug Megan for a quickie interview on plotting. Enjoy.

Hi Megan. Thanks for doing this interview. It’ll be quick and painless. I promise.

1. Tell me a little about your workshop and what made you decide to put this type of workshop together?

In the course of attending various writers’ conferences, I realized—perhaps not a rocket scientist moment on my part—that there were very few workshops for pantsers, probably because of our seat of the pants style. As I tried to figure out how to write a story, and not just pretty words strung together, I came up with some ideas to ask myself in the course of writing that don’t involve “plot,” “outline” or “stay true to the synopsis.”

[And I gotta give props to my faux critique partner, Carolyn Jewel, who worked on the outline with me. Some day we will present this workshop together, but meanwhile, buy Carolyn’s Book, My Wicked Enemy, when it comes out this summer. End of commercial.]

2. When you said, " a writer has to decide if they really are a Pantser and not a plotter looking to get out of the work," it made me laugh and made me think. Can you tell me what that really means? How can a writer tell if they really are a true Pantser or a Plotter?

I think true pantsers feel freest to write—and write best—when when they have only a vague story trajectory in mind. Wannabe pantsers work well with structure, but might not want to put in the advance work that pantsers do on the fly. Either way, it’s work that has to get done; it’s just a difference in when you do it.

3. Another great point you make in your workshop deals with the fact that romances always have the happily ever after and you talk about how NOT to get the character together for 400 pages. Can you talk about that concept?

Real-life romances are boring: You meet, you have a first date, it goes well, you have another one, and so on until you’re I-do-ing. Great for life, not so great for a fantastic story. The whole point, the big question the reader should be asking herself through the course of reading is not ‘when will they I do?’ but ‘how is the author possibly going to get these two together?’ THAT’s why you read. In a romance, the HEA is a foregone conclusion; it’s your job as a writer to make it less foregone, at least in the reader’s mind.

4. You also bring up the clothes line approach. Can you tell me a bit about that and how it helps the Pantser?

For me, I can write really pretty words (see above) but the scenes they’re in might not have much storyline significance. In order to make it to the final edit, you should ask yourself if the story can exist without that scene. If it can, rip it out, no matter how pretty your words are. If it can’t, keep it, and that becomes one of your clothesline items: You move from sock to sock (event to event) until you reach the end of the pole (no double entendre intended, btw). Each sock is more crucial as you advance, and you can work from one point to the next without having to know the whole wash in advance.

5. How can a Pantser feel confidant when they type THE END that they really are at the end with all the loose ends tied up neatly and completely.

Oh, for goodness’ sake, ask me a hard question, why don’t you! I have no idea. I know I feel confident that it’s done because I am COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY OVER IT, at least until I pull it out and edit it. I guess when your characters are smooching you are at the end, hopefully with ends tied. As you re-read, keep a notebook and make note of threads of plot you may or may not have tied up. Chances are you did, since your unconscious helps you, but if you didn’t, you can work it into your edit.

Ha! Don’t get mad at me. I was hoping for something divine. Humph! I guess we’ll have to keep relying on each other. Ah-hem. Ok. Back to interview mode.

6. Finally, please tell us what's next for you.

I’ll be working on a super-sexy high-concept novella called “Fortune’s Lady” (although I might name it My Lady’s Pleasure), and then the next book in my Road series, Road to Desire. I am searching for a new agent, and am committed, for the time being, to historical, although I would love to write another contemporary (I did one that didn’t sell—yet—called Mothering Heights which is being shopped around).

Thanks for doing this PIC! See you in New England! Well, there and on the bus going there:)

About Megan:
Megan majored in English literature at Barnard College with a double minor in political science and religion. She worked in the music industry for 15 years, editing and writing music reviews for a music industry trade magazine. Eventually, she became the Editor-in-Chief and went on to develop music industry conference programs.

Megan married one of her former interns and lives in Brooklyn, NY, with him and her son. Now that she stays at home, Megan has returned to reading — and writing — the fiction that was her first love. She is a member and was President of the Beau Monde (2004-2005), the Regency chapter of the Romance Writers of America, and a member of the NYC chapter of the RWA as well. Find out more about Megan here.



pve design said...

...and so the plot thickens...
perfectly wonderful interview.
thanks for keepin romance dreamy.
...and not too real.
enjoy the new england conference!

Marnie said...

I found you through pve design - have you ever read I Capture The Castle? I am guessing you would enjoy it after reading your blog and posts - and reading about your interests: P&P, BJD. Cassandra is a wonderful character and oh what a great name.

Kwana said...

Thanks Patricia. I'm sure it will be a fun conference.

Thanks for visiting Marnie. I hope you'll come back. I haven't read I Capture the Castle but I'll look for it. Thanks!

Eileen said...

Great interview. I just like happy endings I don't need real life. I just watched Becoming Jane. I now know why she writes happy endings....

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

Great interview Kwana!! I will look out for Megan's work. :-)

mommytherobot.blogspot.com said...

well i just found out your a romance writer. how about that. now i can brag to my knit group that yes all those novels they swoon about are written by regular people just like us.... unless you live in a castle in the upper east side.... do you?

Kwana said...

Thanks Eileen! I've got to see Becoming Jane. You know what a fan I am.

Thanks BG. You'd love Megan.

I do live in a castle on the upper east side Mommytherobot and I like for my friends to call me "The Dutchess"! No, we are all regular folks. Click on some of the writer blogs to the right to see how regular they all are.

Maureen McGowan said...

Great interview, Kwana and Megan!
Can't wait to see you this weekend in Boston!

Megan Frampton said...

Thanks for posting this, Kwana. I sound all official and stuff.

Monica Burns said...

Kwana, Megan, Enjoyed the interview. I'm a pantser myself, which is an oxymoron given my AR tendencies in real life, well that and the fact that I back myself into corners consistently with my books. It makes it hard to back out sometimes. *grin*

Kwana said...

Thanks Maureen and Monica. I'm glad you liked the interview.

No thanks needed, Megan. I'm just glad you did it! It's a great workshop.

Leigh Court said...

Great interview Megan and Kwana! I'm a pantser myself, and totally relate to that "vague story trajectory" reference. In fact, I usually know the beginning and ending of my story, but no idea of the route my characters will take to get there! (And sometimes they go in a completely different direction...) That's the fun of being a pantser -- you know you'll always be in for a wildly creative ride :)

And since I've sold two stories already, pantsing (altho it may sometimes be more stressful than plotting) obviously works for me!


Amanda McCabe said...

Finally, a workshop for pantsers like us! Yay! Wish I could be there to hear it. :)

BTW, I Capture The Castle was one of my favorite books as a kid! I wanted to live in a crumbly old castle and wear home-dyed green tea dresses, too.

Kristen Painter said...

I'm going to have to think about that whole clothesline thing.

Wendy Toliver said...

great interview! :)

Morgan said...

I was also in the audience to listen to Megan's wonderful workshop at my local RWA meeting. She was fantastic as was the great info about plotting. Thanks so much for the interview!

Kwana said...

Thanks for chiming in Leigh, Amanda, Kristen, Wendy and Morgan. I'm glad you liked the interview. Megan gives us a lot to think about!

Natalie Damschroder said...

Sorry I'm so late chiming in! I can't wait to meet you both, and Megan, I'll attend your workshop, since Nephele is my agent and won't be there luring the crowd with Deidre and Elaine. :)

A while back, I latched on to the word "flyer" rather than "pantser" when someone suggested it as an alternative. The phrase "fly by the seat of your pants" has one verb, fly, and that's what we're doing. We're flying, so we're flyers. We're not pulling people's pants to their ankles. ;)

Anyway, I always love meeting other flyers and learning their methods.

Kwana said...

Thanks Natalie. I really like that term "flyer". It's cool and I look forward to meeting you this weekend.

Megan Frampton said...

Thanks, everyone, and I look forward to meeting you, Natalie, this Saturday.

Thanks for the nice words about the workshop, Morgan.

I like the term flyer too.

Melissa Walker said...

nice interview! i feel like pantsing my way through something right now, but i'm a plotter at heart so i guess i'll sit down to outline. sigh.

Elena Greene said...

Sorry I'm late! Thanks for the cool interview, Megan and Kwana, and have a great time at NEC.

I'm not really either a plotter or a pantser. I don't know if there's a term for someone who has to start with an outline but never sticks to it. :)

Kwana said...

Thanks Melissa. Glad you liked the interview.

Elena, that's funny. I think I'm a little like you too with the loose outline that never gets followed. I guess we're pantsers at heart.

Leanna said...

This was great! Thanks, Kwana for the interview and thanks Megan for the info, I also really enjoyed your RWA talk. As a die-hard pantser it was so nice to know there's a method to our madness, I guess I hadn't really taken the time to think about it, but in order to be a career author you really do have to understand your own process and honor it. Cheers!!!

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